How to Play “Celebrities” over Zoom

No, not that Celebrity game.  We just played this shelter-in-place style over Zoom and it was loads of fun.

What is it?

Celebrities is a party game introduced to me by friends, Jean Cheng and Eric Chou. It’s super fun and we realized with a little effort, it can be adapted to be played over Zoom. These instructions are written by Jean, with an assist by me (Eugene).

Celebrities is a guessing game where players secretly submit a celebrity name. After hearing the full list of names, players take turns guessing who submitted which name until all celebrity names are revealed.

Why play?

  • It’s a memory and guessing game. Not only are you guessing who submitted what name, but you have to try and remember all the names.
  • It’s competitive and collaborative at the same time. You’ll see in a second.
  • Other than Zoom, no special gameplay tools or knowledge are needed.

What do you need?

  • You’ll need 8-10 people to play—and the more people, the more fun it is. It works best when each person has a cellphone that can text or message other people in the game.
  • A paid Zoom account so you don’t run into the 40 minute limit.
  • A Google form (created by the host) with one question “Submit your celebrity name:” with a short text answer field.

How to play?

Think of a famous name that other people in the room would know. It can be real or fictitious, person, animal, cartoon character…anything goes, as long as it’s a recognizable name.

When you’ve got your name, submit it via the Google Form to the host and then, in the participants tab, “raise your hand” to signal you’re done.

Once everyone has submitted, the host will read all of the celebrity names out loud exactly TWICE, without revealing who submitted which famous name. Players should listen carefully but are not allowed to write anything down. This is the only time players will hear the list of celebrities.

Starting with the person whose name is at the top of the participants tab, have them guess who submitted a celebrity name.

Let’s say it’s Angela’s turn, and she says, “Eugene, are you the person who put in Mr. T?”

If Angela guesses wrong, her turn is over. If she guesses correctly, Eugene joins Angela to form a team. Each player gets one guess per turn.

Because he was identified, Eugene is no longer an active guesser in the game and doesn’t get a turn. Eugene is now part of Team Angela.

He should “lower his hand” in the Zoom participants list to show he is now on another player’s team. That signals to the host that Eugene doesn’t take a turn to guess.

Play resumes. The next person on the participant gets to guess.

If the next turn falls to someone who has a team, they can text or message among themselves who the team guess is.

The teams are a key advantage to this game. Teams caucus to share information and collectively strategize on the next guess.

Ultimately, the team captain makes the guess.

Every time a player is guessed correctly, they are added to the guesser’s team. If they have a team, all of their players move to the new team forming an even larger one.

Pretty soon teams multiply in number and in size. The teams grow larger in membership as they consolidate through correct guesses.

Eventually, it’s down to two teams with half of the players on each.

Whoever is the last person/team standing wins!

These Days, Little Things

It’s such a slog to get groceries these days that we’ve taken to texting our neighbors before we go: “Hey, heading to the Bowl. Need anything?”

The pings and pongs of text messages land in our talking minicomputers:
“Oh yeah, some broccoli!”,
“Can you get us some sugar?”
“We’re all set, but thank you for asking!”

And they’ve been doing the same for us.

These days, it’s the little things that matter.

After one of our trips, the neighbor across the street gave us a bush frond of fennel. She’s a gardener.

We put the fennel in some water and stuck it on our counter.

A few days later, while she was washing dishes, V said, “Hey, I think there’s a caterpillar in the fennel!”

Lo and behold, meet the newest member of our family—Marty!

Marty is a prodigious eater and shitter.

Their poops are little, but everywhere.

These days, it’s the little things that matter.

Because, like the fennel that carried the almost invisible swallowtail egg that turned into Marty, these days, look for the little things that will lead you to something wonderful and beautiful.

Watching JoJo Rabbit

My son walked by the living room as we were watching JoJo Rabbit and asked, “What’s this? A Nazi boy scout movie?”

In many respects, that’s exactly what JoJo Rabbit is.

It’s a movie about, JoJo, a ten-year old boy who is a fervent Nazi and even has an imaginary Adolf Hitler as his best friend. He wears a uniform and goes out with his friends in a youth camp for aspiring Nazis.

Much mirth and hijinks ensue as they burn books and draw horrible pictures of their enemies.

This is, after all, a movie about the Third Reich. And even though you know how the grand story ends, there are moments in the film where you don’t know exactly when the actions of the villains will cross the line from caricature and buffoonery to cruelty and evil.

The movie’s star–Roman Griffin Davis as “JoJo”—gives a wonderfully earnest performance, making his character sympathetic.

I would rate it as a good, but not great, movie that deftly balances humor with pain and dread. Taika Waititi, the director and writer, calls JoJo Rabbit an anti-hate satire.

Recommended, but not a must watch.

Life Imitates Art

It turns out that Lulu Wang’s real life grandmother—the one portrayed in the movie “The Farewell”—learned about her “terminal” cancer diagnosis from reviews of the film.

Interviewer: And she still doesn’t know?

Lulu Wang: Oh, gosh. This is a complicated question. She actually just found out. And it’s very traumatic that it’s coming out in China. And the title of the movie is Don’t Tell Her in Chinese. And her friend saw a review of it and was so proud of her, one of her longest friends, and sent it to her. And the review said, “The film is based on Lulu Wong’s real life. Her grandmother was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2013. Her family threw a fake wedding for her cousin from Japan and her grandmother didn’t know. Then she made a movie about it…” so it went through the entire history of our family, and my grandma read it. And so she said to little Nai Nai, her sister, who plays herself in the movie, she said, “I just thought that you were really daft, because you went and shot a movie, you went to the premiere in New York, and you come back and you can’t tell me anything about it. You can’t tell me what it’s about. You can’t tell me the title. But look, it says in the newspaper it’s called Don’t Tell Her, and that’s why you didn’t tell me, because I am the “her” of the “don’t tell her.”

But we haven’t talked about it, so I’ll see what happens when I see her.

A Fond Farewell

The Farewell opens with the words “Based on an Actual Lie.”

It is a gorgeous movie, written and directed by Lulu Wang and features Awkafina in a dramatic starring role as “Billi”, the granddaughter who comes home to Changchun to see her Nai Nai (Grandmother) for the last time.

The lie is the tent pole for the film because Nai Nai has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, but the family has decided not to tell her. Instead, a rushed wedding is arranged as the pretext for everyone to gather and pay respects to Nai Nai.

The film’s emotional resonance lies in the truth and the feelings that aren’t being verbalized. The characters often say one thing with their words and another with their eyes or faces. Wang uses directness and indirectness as a literal metaphor, often framing shots with characters looking or talking off-screen to another character that is not visible.

An aspect of the film that I identified with was the feeling and experience of traveling back to China from the States. Billi finds her way to her Nai Nai’s apartment in Changchun where all the relatives are gathered. She is heartily greeted by all the family as dinner is being prepared. Similar to me, Billi is not 100 percent fluent in Chinese and there are feelings of awkwardness when she communicates in front of her relatives.

The Farewell revolves around the love between a grandparent and the grandchild that is coming home.

Billi and Nai Nai are more than just “grands” to each other—they are bffs. They talk on the phone every day.

Nai Nai and Billi’s relationship is special and strong.

Not being able to tell her grandmother the truth is the heartbreak. Billi is caught between her desire to tell her Nai Nai the truth, and the rest of the family’s feelings that they are doing the best thing by NOT telling Nai Nai.

The relationship between grandchild and grandparent is the heartstring in tension and constantly tugged here.

And that is what makes this film worth seeing.

Three-breath Meditation

Lately, I’ve been practicing three-breath meditation.

It is as simple as it sounds to learn.

  1. Close your eyes.
  2. Center yourself.
  3. Take a slow measured breath and fill your lungs.
  4. Actively think about nothing.
  5. Release the air gently through your mouth.
  6. Repeat two more times.

You can do it anywhere as long as you can safely close your eyes for twenty seconds. I’ll do it at stop lights on the commute home. Or at my desk when I’m feeling overwhelmed.

It is as hard as it seems to practice.

Step 4 is the killer.

I’m not a good practitioner of meditation. My brain is like a cluttered basement filled with old and new things in stacks organized by happenstance. My thoughts are a puppy wandering around the basement, easily distracted–even delighted–by every different thing.

Three-breath meditation calms me down, if only for a moment.

Linguini with Clams

Why make this?

Growing up, we never ate spaghetti or Italian food for that matter. It wasn’t until I got to college that I learned about non-red sauce pasta dishes. Linguini with clams is one of my favorite.
This recipe doesn’t require any fresh ingredients except cilantro and garlic. You should always have those around.
I’ve substituted cilantro for the traditional parsley. What Chinese household has parsley around? I say, use what you got. Besides, parsley sucks and cilantro is awesome.

Serves

4

Time

30 minutes

Ingredients

1 package of linguine
2 TB of olive oil
2 cans of chopped clams, juices reserved and set aside
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup of white wine, vermouth or sake
1/2 cup of cilantro finely minced
Sprinkle of red pepper flakes or Japanese shichimi powder
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper

Steps

  1. Heat big pot of water for pasta. Salt liberally. When at heavy boil, add pasta and cook to almost al dente.
  2. Heat olive oil in large sauté pan.
  3. Add garlic, stir until fragrant about 1 minute. Add the wine and reserved clam juice. Heat until boiling and then turn down heat and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add cilantro. Taste for saltiness. Add salt, pepper and red pepper to taste.
  5. Reserve ½ cup of pasta water. When pasta is not yet al dente, drain and add to the sauté pan with the sauce. Toss until pasta is coated with the sauce. If it needs more sauce, add the reserved pasta water.
  6. Add in the clams and toss.
  7. Serve on fancy plates. Don’t add parmesan cheese or you will be frowned upon.

Nom Nom Paleo’s Cracklin’ Chicken

Why make this?

This recipe for Ollie’s Cracklin’ Chicken is from Nom Nom Paleo. It is quick and delicious and a favorite meal in our household. All credit for this recipe to Nom Nom Paleo, I’m just cribbing it here.

Time

10 minutes prep. 8 minutes cooking.

Serves

4 people for dinner

Ingredients

Steps

  1. Debone the chicken thighs with a sharp knife. Trim extra skin and weird parts of the thigh that stick out. Leave the skin on. Pat dry with a paper towel. Sprinkle with Magic Mushroom powder or salt. This step should be done at least 20 minutes early, but can be done a few hours or a day ahead. This is so the salt can do its dry brine magic.
  2. Wash your hands, heathen.
  3. Heat oil in large frying pan. We use a no nonsense cast iron one. Oil should be almost smoking.
  4. Place thighs skin side down in the oil. The chicken skin will release its own fat during the cooking.
  5. Cook for 5 minutes and then flip for another 2-3 minutes. I usually test with thermometer until the meat near the bone reaches 150℉/65℃.
  6. Serve with rice and vegetable of choice.

Note

Nom Nom Paleo’s recipe calls for eight thighs. Costco sells six chicken thighs to a pack and that’s how we roll.
You can cook this recipe with deboned and deskinned thighs, but I will judge you. In no circumstance are you allowed to make this with chicken breast.

Bonus

If you are feeling adventurous, you can also make a great brown gravy to accompany the chicken.
1. Pour out excess oil and fat from pan. Heat pan over medium heat.
2. Throw in ¼ cup of chicken broth, white wine, really any kind of liquid.
3. Stir and scrape up the fond that has formed on the skillet.
4. Add a pat of butter.
5. Add any herbs—parsley, cilantro, oregano would be good if you have it. If not, no worries.
5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Roasted Cauliflower

Why make this?

This recipe for roasted cauliflower is easy and brings out the best in brassicas.1
The smoked paprika is the secret ingredient that kicks it up to a whole other level.
The result is a plate of smoky, salty, tender vegetable bits with crispy edges. It goes great as a side to a meat-based dish or can stand alone as a main attraction. Cauliflower is my go-to vegetable to roast, but you can use any type of hardy produce including broccoli, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, fennel root, or carrots. Or make a mix of anything you find interesting in the produce aisle.

Time

15 minutes for prep. 20 minutes for roasting.

Serves

4 as a side dish

Ingredients

1 large or 2 small cauliflower, rinsed and cut into thumb-sized florets (See note.)
3 glugs of olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Kosher salt, about a teaspoon
Freshly ground black pepper, about ¼ teaspoon
Smoked paprika, about 1 teaspoon
Lemon (optional)
Cilantro, minced (optional)

Steps

  1. Heat oven to 425℉/220℃.
  2. Cut your cauliflower into small florets and put in a large bowl. Glug the olive oil evenly over the cauliflower. Mix with spoon so all pieces are lightly coated. Throw in the garlic. Sprinkle in the salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. Toss again. Taste a piece to see if it is seasoned correctly.
  3. Spread cauliflower evenly in one layer over a baking pan. Each piece of cauliflower must touch the metal of the pan.
  4. Roast for 20 minutes or until the bottom edges are brown and crispy. You may want to check in on your veggies at the 15 minute mark to see if they are done as you don’t want them to burn.
  5. This is completely optional as it will be delicious once it comes out of the oven, but I’m channeling my inner Samin Nosrat here. When the cauliflower is nice and crispy, plate it and squeeze a lemon to give it a touch of acid and sprinkle with cilantro.

Notes

Don’t forget to include the stem too. I usually just slice the stem into disks and mix with the rest.
Honestly, think of this recipe as a guide to roasting “Any Kind of” hardy vegetable and not any directive recipe. Mix and match vegetables, seasonings etc. The baking pan is your canvass and you my friend are the painter.


  1. Also known as cruciferous vegetables which always makes me think of a wizarding spell from Harry Potter.